Don’t let her inclusion in the 2018 Best Lawyers in America fool you: Lydia Chesnick’s original career plan had nothing to do with the law.
“In high school, I was sure I was going to work for the New York Times, and I was going to be a journalist, or write a novel – one of the two. I think a lot of lawyers are frustrated writers, anyway,” she laughed.
Chesnick, a Brookline native and partner at Bernkopf Goodman LLP, pursued a writing career at Northwestern University before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. She was still flirting with the idea of being a legal correspondent when she returned to the East Coast for law school at Boston University.
But after graduating from law school at age 23, Chesnick found her way to Bernkopf Goodman, where she practices business and real estate law.
“I think initially I fell more in love with the firm, and then the real estate piece,” she said. “I just so enjoyed what I’m doing, I think I just got caught in the wave here, in a good way.”
When Chesnick began practicing in 1981, the path for a woman in the legal profession was not without obstacles. In fact, she said, few clothing retailers were even making working maternity clothes in the ’80s.
In the years since, Chesnick has seen her firm almost double in size, growing from 12 attorneys to around 26. The net result is a collaborative community wherein colleagues can tackle questions and issues together, she explained.
“I think the whole environment has been great,” she said. “Very little of what I do is form-oriented. It’s sort of original thought each time, or customized each time. It’s kind of keyed-in to what I enjoy.”
As an attorney, Chesnick also revels in the day-to-day.
“I’m very, very goal-oriented, and I’m very people-oriented, so I genuinely enjoy the transactional,” she said. “I enjoy the banter, the negotiations, the people, the challenge.”
Of her clients, the individuals and families far outweigh the institutions – and that’s the way she likes it.
“One of the great byproducts of being here so long is I’ve followed along with families, so I’ve watched the next generations grow up, working with them,” she said.
Chesnick even got involved with an organization one of her client’s sons founded for people with special needs, one of the many groups and activities in which she participates.
Chesnick does not have a lot of time for outside endeavors; she keeps herself busy with work, “and that’s all by design,” she said. “I live with my cup running over. I court that.”
Still, she belongs to a few organizations that “fill some free time I didn’t know I had,” she laughed.
Drawing from her experiences with her father, a retired rabbi, Chesnick serves as a committee member for the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly. Additionally, she works with the Barry L. Price Rehabilitation Center for people with developmental disabilities.
Chesnick also makes time for her daily video chat with her baby granddaughter.
And despite regularly being included as one of Super Lawyers’ best women attorneys in Massachusetts and New England, Chesnick said that being named a 2018 Woman of FIRE is a proud moment.
“There are so many different accolades in this city,” she said. “But this one, I think because it’s not geared just to my profession … it means a lot to me.”